Review: Under the Skin

Reading Michael Faber’s Under the Skin right on the heels of Distraction highlights the range of storytelling in the SF genre.  Distraction is a high velocity romp through big ideas. Under the Skin is an almost meditative exploration of humanity.

Faber (no relation) hangs his exploration on an SF conceit that superficially is more suited for a Twilight Zone episode than a literary novel.  While I intend no disrespect to the Zone, its allegories and allusions are not often subtle.  Under the Skin starts from a premise that is right on the nose and then proceeds to challenge, undermine, and reinforce the themes opened by the trope.

He does this by committing completely to the (ludicrous) premise and constructing a flawed, damaged, unbowed, believable character and putting her through the wringer.  He keeps the action mostly centered on his main character by circumscribing her role using plot twists born of genre convention.  That effectively keeps us inside the head of his perfect outsider as she confronts our world and her own ideas.

The whole narrative hangs on his characterization, and he carries it off completely.

I’m being deliberatively vague about the particular hoary SF in question since there are mild spoilers getting to it.


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